KANOPOLIS LAKE — “There’s two things you can’t believe on a hike,” Bob Ash said. “One is, it’s just over the hill. And, it’s all downhill from here.”

Ash, of Lindsborg, has led a hike at Kanopolis State Park every New Year’s Day for the past 15 years or so. It started with just his wife and her sisters, but now he leads members of the Salina Hiking Club.

That hike coincides with First Day Hikes sponsored by state parks across Kansas, including Kanopolis State Park. The park-sponsored hike was canceled because of the “extremely cold weather.”

But the Salina Hiking Club are a hardy bunch and 11 people gathered at the western trailhead at about 10:30 a.m. — and 1 degree Fahrenheit — for a 1-mile trek to see a petroglyph.

Something else you can’t believe on hikes Ash leads: If it were cold enough, he said, he’d just do that mile in and back; he wouldn’t go the whole 3 miles he had planned.

But there was something Ash wanted to show the group and, apparently, temperatures in the single digits didn’t qualify as cold enough. Or perhaps that first mile was a good warmup. Anyway, nine hikers took the cold in stride and voted to go on.

Or maybe another old saying is true: There’s no such thing as bad weather, there are only bad clothes. The clothes might have been good, and they were also plentiful. Hikers were bundled in layers, hats and hoods, scarves and turtlenecks, three layers of jackets, most covered enough to be unrecognizable.

Bundled up

Rick Bodenhamer, who owns Rendezvous Adventure Outfitters in Lindsborg, wore a balaclava to protect his face.

A pair of pocket hand-warmers given to a novice by a generous club member proved effective in keeping fingers toasty for hours.

Overall, it was a good day for a strenuous hike. The sun was bright for most of it and the wind stayed calm. By the end, the temperature was clear up to 12 degrees. 

Easy off-trail hike

Walking was moderately easy, most of it on established trails. There were some hills to scramble up and down off-trail.

Crossing a few streams could be tricky without getting your feet wet, but everyone managed.

Ash was a knowledgeable guide. If you go that way, he pointed out, you’ll see a prairie dog town.

“They have the sense to stay inside,” quipped one hiker, who, nevertheless, was keeping up with the quick pace Ash set.

7-mile round trip

At Red Rock Canyon, which Ash called the traditional dinner spot, the group sat down for a snack and water break. People looked for names carved into the rocks, then headed back for the cars, 3 miles away.

The group hiked almost 7 miles in four hours.

No one complained, and all seemed to look forward to the next hike, and hopefully warmer temperatures, in March.